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- Definition Of Heirloom Seeds
Seed saving is not always feasible with all types of vegetables, but collecting your own seed can be an exercise in self-sufficiency and a lesson in plant biology. Seeds you save from your home production system are accustomed to your climate and growing medium and are adapted to pests in your area. Seeds are generally saved from annual and biennial plants. Perennials are usually propagated through division or cuttings.
The easiest seeds to save are open-pollinating, non-hybrid annuals. Plants that are not self-pollinating can cross-pollinate; therefore, it is best to grow only one variety of a plant from which you want to save seed that season. If two varieties of spinach bloom near each other, the resultant seed is likely to be a cross between the two. Different varieties of peppers should be separated by 500 feet to avoid cross-pollination. Melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and squash need even more personal space--at least a half-mile is required.
Biennials require more work and commitment. These plants do not send up seed stalks until the second season. Biennials include beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, onions, parsley, parsnips, rutabaga, salsify, Swiss chard, and turnips.
Do not save seed from hybrid varieties if you want plants like the parents. Seeds from hybrid varieties produce a mix of offspring, many of which may have different characteristics than the parent. Seed from hybrid vine crops is often quite variable also - squashes, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins often cross-pollinate with other genetically compatible varieties. Unless pollination has been strictly controlled, strange hybrids often result in the next generation.
Among the vegetable seeds most easily saved are non-hybrid tomato, pepper, bean, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, and watermelons. Collect seeds from the fully mature, ripe fruit of these plants.
It's essential to store seeds securely in plastic sacks with the goal that you don't lose any dampness inside the seeds.
Certain seeds might be solidified for three years or more; onions, furthermore, can just be solidified for one year.
While the seeds are solidified, you may as well verify not to open or touch the sacks. Attempt to keep the seeds in a freezer that you never or rarely utilize, if plausible. Depending on if you're not certain to what extent your seeds could be solidified, you might as well just solidify them for a year.
Tomato: The seeds are encased in a gelatinous coating, which prevents them from sprouting inside the tomato. Remove this coating by fermenting it. This mimics the natural rotting of the fruit and has the added bonus of killing seed borne tomato disease. Squeeze the seeds from a fully ripe fruit into a bowl, add water and let stand at room temperature for about three days. Once fermentation occurs, mold will form on the surface of the water. Add more water, stir, then gently scrape mold and debris off the top. Repeat until only clean seed remains, strain, rinse, and leave the seeds at room temperature until they are thoroughly dry.
Peppers: Select a mature pepper, preferably one that is completely red. Cut the pepper open, scrape the seeds onto a plate and let the seeds dry in a non-humid, shaded place, testing them occasionally until they break rather than bend. Leave at room temperature until completely dry.
Beans, peas, and other legumes: Leave pods on the plant until they are "rattle dry." Pick the pods and remove the seeds when completely dry.
Eggplant: Leave the plant on the vine until it is well past the stage when you would pick it for kitchen purposes. Eggplants ready for seed saving will be dull, off-colored and hard. Cut the eggplant in half and pull the flesh away from the seeded area.
Cucumbers: Cucumbers change color after they ripen and start to become mushy. Cut it in half and scrape the seeds into a bowl. Remove their slimy coating by rubbing them gently around the inside of a sieve while washing them or soak them in water for two days. Rinse and dry.
Summer squash/ Pumpkins: Summer squash is at the seed-saving stage when you cannot dent the squash with a fingernail. Cut it open, and scrape the seeds into a bowl, wash, drain, and dry.
Watermelon: Put the seeds from ripe fruit in a strainer and add a drop of dishwashing liquid to remove any sugar from the seeds.
Storing seeds; Store most seed packets in airtight jars. The exception is legumes, which store best in breathable bags. To keep the seeds dry, fill a small cloth bag with about one-half cup dried powdered milk. Place the packet in the jar beneath the seed packets. Be sure to label your container with the variety, the date, and other pertinent information. Store your seeds in a cool, dark, dry place; a refrigerator is a good choice. Avoid opening the container until you are ready to plant.
Stored seeds will retain their viability for different lengths of time depending on the type of seed. Melon seed can be stored for as long as five years, while sweet corn is only good for one year. Other types of seed remain viable for two to three years.
Bean - Phaseolus vulgaris
PLANT: Although, ideally, different varieties should be separated by 150 feet or another crop flowering at the same time, we rarely observe cross-pollination even when two varieties are grown next to each other.
FLOWER: Beans produce perfect, self-pollinating flowers. Cross pollination by insects is possible but rare as pollination occurs before the flower opens. Because the anthers are pushed up against the stigma, automatic pollination is assured when the anthers open.
SELECTION TRAITS: Most commercial breeders favor bush varieties which can be mechanically harvested and fibrous bean pods which hold up during harvest and shipment. Pole varieties are more suited to small, home gardens because they produce more beans in a smaller space. Because vines are off the ground beans are easier to pick and away from the settling cold air of unexpected frosts. Plant growth: Pole type growth, D; Bush, r. Pod edibility: Little or no fiber, r; Stringless, r . Seed color: White seeded varieties are better for canning because seed color doesn't affect canning liquid, r; Colored, D. Pod, foliage and flower color: Purple, D.
HARVEST: Allow pods to dry brown before harvesting, about six weeks after eating stage. If frost threatens, pull entire plant, root first, and hang in cool, dry location until pods are brown.
PROCESS: Small amounts of pods can be opened by hand. Flail larger amounts. Remove large chaff by hand or fork. Winnow remaining particles.
Lettuce - Lactuca sativa
PLANT: Separate varieties flowering at the same time by at least 20 feet to ensure purity.
FLOWER: Lettuce produces perfect, self-pollinating flowers. Each flower produces one seed. Flowers are grouped in little heads of 10-25 flowers all of which open at once for as little as 30 minutes. Anthers are fused together into a little cone that completely surrounds stigma and style. Style is pushed up through anther cone and is coated with its own pollen. Note: Mature head lettuce may need a slit (two or three inches deep) across the top to encourage flowering.
SELECTION TRAITS: Leaf color: red, D. Leaf color is controlled by at least two genes with a number of variations possible. Generally, hybrids produced by crossing red and green varieties result in red offspring. Leaf shape: no lobes, D; oak leaved, r. Seed stalk formation : bolt resistance, r;
Seed color: white seeds, r; black seeds, D.
HARVEST: Some outside leaves can be harvested for eating without harming seed production. Allow seed heads to dry 2-3 weeks after flowering. Individual heads will ripen at different times making the harvest of large amounts of seed at one time nearly impossible. Wait until half the flowers on each plant has gone to seed. Cut entire top of plant and allow to dry upside down in an open paper bag.
PROCESS: Small amounts of seed can be shaken daily from individual flowering heads. Rub with hands to remove remaining seeds. If necessary, separate seeds from chaff with screens.
Peas - Pisum sativum
PLANT: Ideally, different varieties need to be separated 50 feet or with another crop flowering at the same time. However, in the cool regions of the Rocky Moun tains, we rarely observe cross-pollination even when two varieties are grown next to each other.
FLOWER: Peas produce perfect, self-pollinating flowers. Cross-pollination by insects is possible but rare because pollination occurs before the flower opens. Because the stigma does open before pollen is ready crosses theoretically could occur.
SELECTION TRAITS: Most commercial breeders prefer bush varieties with pods that ripen simultaneously in order to facilitate commercial harvesting. Tall varieties produce more peas in small, home gardens. Plant Growth : tall, D; bush, r. Seed Shape: Round seeds germinate better in cold weather, D; w rinkled seeds, r. Pod Edibility: lack of fibers on the inside of the pod, r. Pod shape: round, D;
HARVEST: Allow pods to dry brown before harvesting, about four weeks after eating stage. If frost threatens, pull entire plant, root first, and hang in cool, dry location until pods are brown.
PROCESS: Small amounts of pods can be opened by hand. Flail larger amounts. Remove large chaff by hand or fork. Winnow remaining particles.
Pepper - Capsicum annuum
PLANT: Most home gardeners will get satisfactory results if different varieties are separated by 50 feet and another tall, flowering crop. New studies from New Mexico State University show more crossing than was previously thought. We recommend at least 400 feet between varieties to ensure absolute purity.
FLOWER: Peppers produce perfect, mostly self-pollinating flowers. Solitary bees will pollinate if a more desirable pollen is not available in the area.
SELECTION TRAITS: Flavor: Hot, D
HARVEST: Harvest mature, fully-ripe peppers for seed. (Most bell peppers turn red when fully mature.) If frost threatens before peppers mature, pull entire plant and hang in cool, dry location until peppers mature.
PROCESS: There are two methods, dry and wet, to process pepper seeds. The dry method is adequate for small amounts. Cut the bottom off the fruit and carefully reach in to strip the seeds surrounding central cone. In many cases, seeds need no further cleaning. To process the seed from large amounts of peppers, cut off the tops just under the stem, fill a blender with peppers and water and carefully blend until good seeds are separated and sink to bottom. Pepper debris and immature seeds will float to the top where they can be rinsed away. Spread clean seeds on paper towel and dry in cool location until seed is dry enough to break when folded.
Tomato - Lycopersicon esculentum
PLANT: Separate varieties with short styles (most modern varieties) by at least 10 feet. Varieties with long styles (heirlooms and older varieties) need at least 100 feet to ensure purity. If solitary bees are prevalent, separate all varieties at least 100 feet and place another flowering crop between.
FLOWER: Tomatoes produce perfect, self-pollinating flowers. Anthers are fused together into a little cone that rarely opens until pollen has been shed and the stigma pollinated. (Older varieties with wild tomatoes or L. pimpinellifolium in their genetic ancestry may have stigmas that stick out beyond the cone containing the anthers. Varieties with this trait can be identified by looking closely at mature flowers and need to be treated accordingly.)
SELECTION TRAITS: Tomato is the most popular vegetable in America and hundreds of the genes have been mapped. Those of immediate importance for home gardeners include: Plant size: Determinate varieties, r; b ush varieties, r; dwarf varieties, r. Leaf Shape : Potato-type leaves, r. Disease resistance : Leaf mold resistance, r; fusarium wilt, race 1 and race 2, D; verticillium wilt, D; alternaria, D; tobacco mosaic, D; nematodes, D. Ripening : prevents green shoulders, r; prevents ripening and is found in Longkeeper, r; produces parthenocarpic fruits which do not need to be pollinated. Tomatoes without seeds can be produced in weather too-cold for pollination to take place, r. Fruit color - produced by the combination of flesh and skin colors: red: pink flesh, r covered by a yellow skin, r pink: pink flesh, r and colorless skin, r crimson: bright, purplish-red flesh, r and yellow skin, r purple: bright, purplish-red flesh, r and colorless skin, r; yellow: yellowish flesh, r and yellow skin, r white: yellowish flesh, r and colorless skin, r orange: reddish-orange flesh, D and yellow skin, r
HARVEST: If possible, allow tomatoes to completely ripen before harvesting for seed production. Unripe fruits, saved from the first frost, will ripen slowly if kept in a cool, dry location. Seeds from green, unripe fruits will be most viable if extracted after allowing the fruits to turn color.
PROCESS: Cut the tomato into halves at its equator, opening the vertical cavities that contain the seeds. Gently squeeze out from the cavities the jelly-like substance that contains the seeds. If done carefully, the tomato itself can still be eaten or saved for canning, sun-drying or dehydrating.
Place the jelly and seeds into a small jar or glass. (Add a little water if you are processing only one or two small tomatoes.) Loosely cover the container and place in a warm location, 60-75° F. for about three days. Stir once a day.
A layer of fungus will begin to appear on the top of the mixture after a couple of days. This fungus not only eats the gelatinous coat that surrounds each seed and prevents germination, it also produces antibiotics that help to control seed-borne diseases like bacterial spot, canker and speck.
After three days fill the seed container with warm water. Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of tomato pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Note: Viable seeds are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the strainer onto paper towel or piece of newspaper. Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two). Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label and store in a packet or plastic bag.